When you visit the gay organization SCOHD Society in Pondicherry, you are immediately taken to a joyful, spontaneous and wonderfully chaotic place where nothing is too weird or outlandish. This is understandable, since SCOHD is the only place in Pondicherry where gay and transgender people can express themselves freely. Because even if the law that said that homosexual activities was a sickness has been thrown out of the window one year ago, the common attitude towards gay people is far from better. Ganesh, the director of SCOHD, tells me the story of a member of SCOHD that was working at a local bakery. When it was found out that he was gay, he was immediately fired and left without no income for several months.
Ganesh goes on by telling me that winds of change are blowing for the gay community, or as it is called in India, MSM (men who have sex with men), but mostly only in the biggest cities of India. There is no openly homosexual celebrity or politician in India, and the law change has not garnered that much support among the common Indian citizen. That is especially visible in Tamil Nadu, Ganesh continues, telling me of how discriminated for instance transgendered people are in hospital care. And the term “being gay” is not even used, relationships between men is seen as “fooling around”, pinpointing how little the Indian society think of love between two people of the same sex.
It is when I think of situations like these that I am really impressed with the work of SCOHD. At our photoshoot there last week, there were so many people and so much happiness. They were making flower arrangements, sowing clothes, singing, dancing and pretty much having an amazing time together. Without the organization, many of these people would never have been able to meet, talk to each other and find someone that they can truly be themselves. When they go home instead, reality starts. Many are married to women from fixed up marriages and several have been kicked out from their families. With this, SCOHD becomes an asylum for these people, showing them that even though society does not care for them, SCOHD does.
The time at SCOHD has really affected me a lot and I feel more passionate than ever about working with gay rights in developing countries. Being part of a successful gay rights movement might be tough, but in the end, it is worth every little effort.